For the winners, a trip to the Super Bowl. For the losers, better luck next year.
Eight teams boiled down to four last week as we now prepare for two glorious Conference Title games. It’s a battle between the old and the new in both the AFC and the NFC, but since there can be only one winner, who should you be backing to advance to the dance?
We’ve previewed all the stats, match ups and trends that matter, and our complete 2019 NFL Conference Championships Preview can be found below.
New Orleans Saints Vs Los Angeles Rams
Monday 21 January, 7:00am, Mercedes Benz Superdome
It’s only fitting the NFC Championship Game has boiled down to the only two 13-win teams from the regular season.
The Rams earned a trip to their first Conference title game since 2001 following a pretty convincing 30-22 win over the Cowboys at home last week, highlighted by a 273-yard rushing performance – the most in team history.
For New Orleans, things weren’t quite so clear cut in a 20-14 win over last year’s Super Bowl champs, but the Saints accomplished a minor milestone themselves – their 14-point comeback over the Eagles was the largest in franchise history.
We’re now left with two fairly evenly matched sides, both of which can torch the scoreboard at a moments notice. When these two sides met earlier in November, it was the Saints walking away with a 45-35 home win, but you’d be foolish to read too much into Week 9’s result.
Things have changed a lot since then, particularly for the Rams. Running back Todd Gurley is by far the most dangerous man on the field, and when you throw in the likes of C.J. Anderson, suddenly Los Angeles become an entirely different beast.
You have to take note of what the Rams did last week to the Cowboys to fully understand, though. Dallas had allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards in the league entering the Divisional Round, but somehow allowed both Gurley and Anderson to combine for 238-yards and a whopping trio of touchdowns.
So how do the Saints fare against the run?
This is where it gets interesting. New Orleans allowed the second-fewest rushing yards during the regular season. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen dialed up the pressure on Nick Foles last week, but he also managed to hold the Eagles to just 49-rushing yards in the win.
Of course, there’s a lot more to this game than just running the ball, and that’s where the Saints have the edge. Even after a rocky first quarter start last week, Drew Brees hooked up with Michael Thomas for 171-yards and a score on just 12 receptions.
It’s the little things that should see the Saints over the line this week however, and that all starts under the headset. Head coach Sean Payton entered half time down 14-10 against Philly, knowing full well that he needed running back Alvin Kamara to involve himself in the passing game. Lo and behold, the 24-year-old finished with 104 scrimmage yards and some crucial first down plays.
The man on the opposite side of the field knows a thing or two about creativity, but this is a huge test for Sean McVay in a tough road venue, something the Rams haven’t seen since Week 16.
Tip: Back the Saints 7-12 @ $5.00
Kansas City Chiefs Vs New England Patriots
Monday 21 January, 10:30am, Arrowhead Stadium
The Patriots knew a trip to Arrowhead to face Kansas City was coming, so how will they respond?
If we learned anything from last week’s 41-28 demolition over the Chargers, it’s to never doubt New England ever again. For all the talk surrounding Tom Brady’s last swansong and the lack of receivers, the Patriots still managed to throw for 343-yards and hold LA to just 19 on the ground.
A road trip to Kansas City is an entirely different ball game however, and as New England’s 3-5 record on the road suggests, the Patriots are the rightful underdog. Kansas City destroyed the Colts 31-13 at home last week in a fairly typical Patrick Mahomes performance, but the standout was the defence limiting Andrew Luck to just 203-yards through the air.
As for New England’s struggles on the road, the more said, the better. The Patriots allowed 192 total points away from home during the regular season, but as far as their own offence goes, New England’s red zone touchdown percentage ranked 26th in the league in away games.
The stats also don’t lie when it comes to the Chiefs’ secondary – they allowed the second-most passing yards and the second-most completions this season. You simply can’t look past what they did last week against a stellar offensive line like Indianapolis’ though, especially considering they allowed just one offensive touchdown all game.
On the other hand, the Chiefs defence has shown a tendency to leave the door open for their opponents. A shootout against Tom Brady is never a great idea, but you do have to rewind a little while to find the future Hall of Famers last stellar game-winning drive on the road.
Against the Steelers in Week 15, Brady overthrew a bunch of receivers in a 17-10 loss in Pittsburgh. And against the Titans in Week 10, Brady was pressured up the middle all day, taking three sacks and throwing for just 254-yards in a blowout loss. Get the idea?
Mahomes has already established himself in the two-minute drill, so you know he’s up for a nail-biter. Throw in the fact the Chiefs blew out the Patriots 41-14 last time New England visited Arrowhead, and we could see Kansas City through to their first Super Bowl since 1969.
Tip: Back the Chiefs to Cover The Line (-3 Points) @ $1.87
We were treated to a simply outstanding weekend of football and there are now only four teams left in the race for Super Bowl 52.
The New England Patriots comfortably beat the Tennessee Titans, but there was drama in the three other games and that leaves us with two fascinating Conference Championship games.
Can the Patriots qualify for yet another Super Bowl or will the Jacksonville Jaguars fairytale continue? Will the Minnesota Vikings become the first team to play in a Super Bowl as host or can Philadelphia give themselves the chance to claim a maiden Super Bowl victory?
We have analysed both games set to take place this weekend and our complete 2018 NFL Conference Championships tips can be found below.
New England Patriots Vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Monday 22 January, 7.05am, Gillette Stadium
The New England Patriots have qualified for the AFC Conference Championship for the sixth season in a row and it should come as no surprise that they are clear favourites to move one game away from their sixth Super Bowl win of the Bill Belichick era.
New England were always in control of their meeting with the Tennessee Titans and this is a side that simply have so much experience on the big occasion.
Tom Brady is far and away the best quarterback left in the competition this season and he will be challenged by the outstanding Jacksonville Jaguars defence, but the gap he has over Jags quarterback Blake Bortles is enormous.
New England have won eight of their past ten games as home favourites and they have covered the line in 14 of their past 19 games.
Jacksonville were uninspiring in the first weekend of the NFL Playoffs, but they were simply outstanding against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Jaguars led 21-0 in the first half and they did wobble a touch late, but they were able to maintain their composure to return to the Conference Championship for the first time since 1999.
This is an enormous challenge for the Jaguars and they have lost their past seven games against the Patriots.
In saying that, winning away from home has not been an issue for the Jaguars this season and they have won three of their past four games as away underdogs.
The Jacksonville defence will give the Patriots plenty of trouble and New England won’t have things their own way, but the Patriots are just too experienced on the big stage and their class will prevail when it really matters in this clash.
Back New England To Beat The Line (-9.5 Points)
Philadelphia Eagles Vs Minnesota Vikings
Monday 22 January, 10.40am, Lincoln Financial Field
The Philadelphia Eagles may have the home-field advantage, but it is the Minnesota Vikings that will start this clash as clear favourites.
Minnesota flew out of the blocks against the New Orleans Saints and they looked as though they would cruise to victory before Drew Brees led the Saints back into the clash.
The dream of a home Super Bowl looked over when the Saints kicked a field goal with only seconds left to play, but with ten seconds on the clock Case Keenum was able to connect with Stefon Diggs and Diggs raced away to score arguably the most famous touchdown in the history of the franchise.
Philadelphia are no tougher than New Orleans and if the Vikings play like they did in the first-half, they will prove too strong for their rivals.
The issue could be expectation and it is no secret that the franchise as a whole has struggled in these big games.
Minnesota have won four of their past five games as away favourites and they are 3-2 against the line in this scenario.
Philadelphia kept their season alive with a fighting 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons and they are a side that are very tough to beat in front of their home fans.
They have won eight of their past nine games at Lincoln Financial Field and they have covered the line in six of these victories.
I really don’t think that there is as much between these two teams as the current market suggests and this has the making of a very low-scoring and tense affair.
Philadelphia are right in this clash and I am keen to back them against the line with the insurance of a 3.5 points start.
Back Philadelphia To Beat The Line (+3.5 Points)
We have reached the penultimate weekend of the NFL season and there are now only four teams left in Super Bowl contention.
The New England Patriots are clear favourites in Super Bowl LI betting markets and will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday morning before the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers do battle for the NFC Championship.
There is betting interest in both games this weekend and you can find our thoughts on each game below!
Atlanta Falcons Vs Green Bay Packers
Monday 23 January, 7.05am, Georgia Dome
This is set to be a fascinating clash between two of the most exciting teams in the NFL and arguably the two most in-form quarterbacks.
Not a great deal was expected from the Atlanta Falcons this season, but led by Matt Ryan they have been simply outstanding throughout.
Ryan showed just how good he was when he tore the Seattle Seahawks to shreads last weekend and he meets a Green Bay Packers defence that is much weaker.
The Falcons will start this clash as home favourites and they have won five of their eight games in this scenario, but have not made a profit from a betting standpoint and they are 3-5 against the line.
An Aaron Rodgers masterclass led the Packers to victory against the Dallas Cowboys last weekend and he is arguably playing in the best form of what has already been a stellar career.
Green Bay have not lost a game for almost two months and they have scored at least 30 points in their past five games, while they have won four of their past five meetings with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Packers have won two of their past four games as away underdogs for a clear profit and there is no way that any team with a firing Rodgers in it should ever be as long as their current price.
This has the potential to be one of the best games of the season and the Packers represent great value at their current price.
Back Green Bay To Win @ $2.65
New England Patriots Vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Monday 23 January, 10.40am, Gillette Stadium
The New England Patriots will be playing in their fifth straight AFC Conference Championship and are clear favourites to qualify for yet another Super Bowl.
New England were far from their best against the Houston Texans last weekend – Tom Brady made a couple of uncharacteristically poor throws – but they were still able to get the job done just like they have all season.
The Patriots have not looked like losing a game in well over a month and they have won their past three meetings with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They have won seven of their past nine games as home favourites and they have the same record against the line – making them one of the best betting teams in the NFL this weekend.
Pittsburgh did not do it easy and they failed to score a touchdown, but they were still able score a very narrow victory over the Kansas City Chiefs to keep their own winning streak alive.
The Steelers have won six of their past seven games by a touchdown or less and they just continue to find a way to grind out results.
They have won their only games as away underdogs this season and their record away from home is good, but they have struggled against the Patriots in recent seasons.
New England are a match-winning juggernaut and should be able to qualify for the Super Bowl with a fairly comfortable victory.
Back New England To Beat The Line (-5.5 Points)